Using Word Games To Improve Vocabulary Retention In Middle School EFL .

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Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 18th International Conference of the Asia Association of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (AsiaCALL–2-2021) Using Word Games to Improve Vocabulary Retention in Middle School EFL Classes Nguyen Ngoc Vu1*, Phan Thi My Linh2, Nguyen Thi Hong Lien1, Nguyen Thi Thu Van3 1 Hoa Sen University, 8 Nguyen Van Trang District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Mynah Education Vietnam, Block C An Loc apartment, Nguyen Oanh street Ward 17 Go Vap District HCMC 3 Sai Gon University, 273 An Duong Vuong District 5, Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam * Corresponding author. Email: 2 ABSTRACT Vocabulary learning is one of the most challenging aspects of learning a foreign language, especially vocabulary retention at the beginner level. There are currently a number of lexical instruction strategies available, but their use in the Vietnamese EFL context is still limited. Therefore, the appropriateness and efficacy of incorporating word games into English lexical instruction at a middle school in South Vietnam were investigated in this report. Mixed method research was conducted on two classes in grade 7 for eight weeks in order to measure the efficacy of using games in the selected school. Two classes (experimental and control) with 64 students whose English proficiency is more or less the same based on preliminary test scores learned the same vocabulary lessons—the formerly used games to learn vocabulary, while the latter used the conventional approach. Pretests, posttests, questionnaires, and interviews were used to collect the data. The experimental group's increase in vocabulary retention was statistically better than the other in the post-test findings after eight weeks of treatment. Furthermore, qualitative analysis revealed that the experimental group participants found word games to be inspiring, fun, and efficient. This paper concludes that using games to teach vocabulary has proven to be a viable method for English teaching and learning in middle school EFL classes. Learners had more chances to be exposed to the target language in a fun and comfortable learning atmosphere by playing word games and improved their ability to acquire and maintain vocabulary. Keywords: Word Game, Vocabulary Retention, Constructivism, Middle School EFL Classes. 1. INTRODUCTION communicate in a foreign language in a formal setting is challenging for many learners [2]. There are various lexical guidance techniques available, but their use in the context of a non-English speaking environment and crowded classrooms in Vietnam is still limited, especially in general public education. The persistence of the old teaching tradition of the grammar-translation approach, which appears to be unable to train language learners for communicative ability, is in line with these investigations. "If language structure is the skeleton, then vocabulary is the vital organs and flesh," says the author [1]. Thus, vocabulary teaching and learning is critical, especially for beginning learners who are reported to have difficulty recalling new words in a non-English speaking environment where learners have little opportunity to practice their newly acquired vocabulary outside of training and learning to Finding effective methods to assist students in collecting, using, storing, and retrieving words in longterm memory is critical for these purposes [3–5]. Learners have a reason to use vocabulary when they play games. However, the situation in Vietnam differs from that in other nations. It is uncertain whether or not using games is feasible in the chosen school setting and how effective games are on vocabulary acquisition and retention among middle school students. Further experimental research is needed to provide practical guidance. As a result, this study attempts to address the following questions with an emphasis on word games for promoting vocabulary retention with EFL students in Vietnam: Copyright 2021 The Authors. Published by Atlantis Press SARL. This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license - 97

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 a. To what extent do word games enhance students' vocabulary retention? b. What are the students' perceptions of the use of word games for learning vocabulary? Theoretically, this study contributes to the increasing demand for literature sources of strategies for pedagogical applications to develop students' linguistic abilities by investigating the use of games in language teaching and learning in low resource conditions. In practice, English teachers would benefit from identifying ways to enhance English language teaching in general education, especially at the lower secondary level in Vietnam. The goal of the study is to give them a better understanding of a variety of activities, such as games, in language teaching and learning. This also aids in debating some teachers' views on the impracticality of implementing novel strategies such as word games in Vietnam's public schools. Furthermore, this research may help the school management understand how to encourage school teachers to use teaching methods that meet the communicative needs of their students in the public sector, which is currently constrained by its existing learning evaluation framework. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Game and constructivism It was Piaget [6], while researching cognitive development and learning theories as part of his "genetic epistemology," who coined the term "education games." While observing the children in his experiments, he developed a theory of learning and an educational method known as "constructivism," which emphasizes discovery learning over teacherprovided knowledge. In other words, learners are active participants who intervene in their learning to form their own information rather than passively receiving knowledge from the instructor. Teachers are no longer lecturers but facilitators whose function is to assist students during the teaching and learning process. According to Piaget, "accommodation and assimilation" are the two main components in the creation of an individual's new knowledge, and each of them is used in games. Assimilation is the process of connecting old and new information in order to help a person shape and gain new perspectives. Accommodation, on the other hand, is the process of reframing the environment and new experiences into existing mental capacity. Piaget described games in particular as "the assimilation of stimuli from the outside world and their integration into the adaptation system." According to him, games can be used for a variety of purposes and are an ideal vehicle for children to learn because they learn more efficiently through play rather than guidance [7]. It's worth noting that Piaget only mentioned games in terms of their effect on children's growth. However, in today's evolving educational system, games can be successful for all age groups if they are carefully chosen according to the developmental stage of the learner [8,9]. Educational perspectives see games as activities that allow students to reinforce previous knowledge by repeating it in a more relaxed setting, similar to Piaget's concept of games [10,11]. In this light, the importance of "repetition of previous experience in a more relaxed setting" is emphasized, implying that learning in a less stressful or stress-free environment plays an important role in the language learning process. Games are "simple illustrations of language usage and the behavior through which the language is woven" from a linguistic standpoint [12,13]. There are several different types of games, each of which focuses on a different aspect of language or ability. Games for language learning are divided into seven categories, according to McCallum [14]: vocabulary games, spelling games, number games, conversation games, structure games, writing games, role-playing, and drama. As previously stated, the aim of this research is to look at ways to improve lower secondary students' lexical retention abilities, so vocabulary games, also known as word games, were chosen for this study. 2.2 Roles of games in language teaching and learning When it comes to the role of games in English language teaching, Plass et al. [15] argue that games will help students become more independent in their language use. Games, without a doubt, can help with this because they have some beneficial characteristics for language learners. To begin with, according to Faria [16], games can involve all students in the learning process, especially shy students who are hesitant to speak the target language in front of a large audience. When playing games in pairs or groups, however, each learner must interact with one another in order to solve the problem. When given genuine reasons to interact in the target language, these students would feel more at ease than if they were speaking in front of the entire class. Joining together in the game often allows learners to understand and acknowledge the efforts of others, which aids in the development of team-building skills. Furthermore, through several repetitions when playing with various individual students in the language class, playing games helps language learners remember and maintain new vocabulary in their long-term memory 98

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 [8,17]. Listening and observing alone, according to [18], does not promote active language stages in learners but rather language knowledge. Learners need chances to use their language in order to progress from language comprehension to language communicative results, and word games have been shown to be effective in ensuring learners' active participation in the learning process. Finally, in addition to providing learners with a plausible opportunity to use and practice the target language [4,19], games provide a great deal of fun and enjoyment, which are essential aspects of language learning that are often overlooked by teachers in their search for teaching points or by course designers [20]. Although the conscious mind is focused on the "task" of playing the game, games help students concentrate their subconscious minds on language processing. As a result, games can help to reduce anxiety, inspire students in second language classes, and increase the likelihood of feedback acquisition [3,9]. In a nutshell, games assist all students in engaging in communicative, constructive, and problem-solving practices that are student-centered. Games provide learners with a rich, meaningful exposure to comprehensible language input while also engaging them cognitively in language use, which is thought to be a prerequisite for language acquisition [21]. Games are, therefore, "part of a teacher's equipment, not only for the language practice they provide but also for the therapeutic effect they have" [1]. 2.3 Benefits of word games in language teaching Learning a word, according to Nation [22], is a multi-faceted operation. Different exercises that concentrate on helping learners develop and use words in various ways should be included in order to learn and maintain new words effectively. Most language teaching experts believe that playing word games will help language learners learn vocabulary. In a variety of ways, games have been shown to benefit the learning of vocabulary. To begin with, games appear to be successful in providing learners with motivation in language learning, especially for young language learners aged 4 to 12, who typically view games as a key motivator for their learning [12]. Eryilmaz [23] proved this in a study he conducted in a Turkish primary school in 2008. According to the findings of this study, using games created a motivating and enjoyable learning atmosphere, and as a result, students participated more actively in classroom activities, allowing them to learn and retain language more easily and permanently. Students can have to repeat the same questions or words many times when playing games. This gave them the ability to drill and repeat lexical or grammar items in the same way as they would in a traditional classroom, but through playing games, they were able to learn English in a more enjoyable and fun environment through communicative practices. According to Eryilmaz [23], playing games not only allows students to practice their English but also connects them to the real-world application of the language outside of the classroom. Pratolo and Solikhati [24] found that games could pique students' interest in teaching materials and help them learn more in another study conducted in an Indonesian grade 3 classroom. Apart from the learning inspiration that word games provide, word games appeared to be good tools for enhancing the ability to remember and infer meanings of new vocabulary in the sense of English teaching as a foreign language in a recent study conducted in secondary schools in Turkey and Iran with participants of similar ages to those in the current study [25]. Yalcin and Ozturk [25] used a series of word games (crossword puzzles, charades, twenty questions, passwords, and definition games) to teach a female group of third-grade junior high school students at a private school in this experimental study. The use of these games has been shown to improve learners' vocabulary growth. They provided plenty of opportunities for learners to understand and use new words, which improved their ability to remember and infer meanings. As a result, learners' understanding improved, and they were able to communicate more effectively. Games in general, and word games in particular, have been shown to be effective in providing adult students with opportunities to meet and discover new vocabulary while also reinforcing previous skills without requiring too much direct teacher assistance. Ghahraman and Shabani [26] proved this when they conducted a study in Iran on the use of word-search puzzles to improve vocabulary skills in intermediate EFL (English as a foreign language) schools. Other studies, such as those conducted by Khan et al. [27] and Plass et al. [15], concluded that games appeared to be successful in improving vocabulary learning, especially retention. These researchers, however, did not provide a good explanation for how successful word games were in achieving these positive results. According to Subhash and Cudney [28], the use of games in the classroom may not be the only reason for such a result. Since the time they spent working on the words was normally marginally longer than when other methods were used by different classes, his experimental students received better results than the others. Word games, on the other hand, were suggested by Faria [16] as a means of increasing students' enthusiasm, which contributed to greater 99

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 interest in teaching material and, as a result, better outcomes. 2.4 Challenges of using word games in English teaching and learning In the Vietnamese context of English teaching and learning, there has been a shift to "more communicative activities" in the English classroom. However, it is only available at a few large universities and international language centers. The use of creative teaching methodologies that include a variety of communicative activities, especially games, is still uncommon in the public sector, particularly in low resource middle schools, where it is thought that both teacher awareness and school facilities for implementing such methods are lacking [29]. Although some researchers have looked into the teaching and learning of English in Vietnamese high schools and universities, "a limited body of literature published locally in Vietnam shows that study is not a feasible activity among Vietnamese English teachers" [30]. There have been very few studies on the use of games in English teaching in Vietnam. In particular, Huyen and Nga [31] discovered that games were both enjoyable and useful in improving students' communicative competence by providing lots of exposure to the target language. In addition, "lack of cooperation among class members" and "preference for using learner's mother tongue" were listed as roadblocks to expanding the effectiveness of language learning through games. This study was conducted over a two-week span, during which they attempted to incorporate as many games as possible into their adult classes. As a consequence, if the study had been done with adolescents over a longer period of time, the outcome may have been different. Most studies have shown that using games as an instructional strategy in language teaching, especially when it comes to vocabulary, has positive results when compared to other vocabulary teaching methods [8,32,33]. However, not all word games are useful in the teaching and learning of languages. As a result, the effectiveness of using games in language teaching is highly dependent on the teacher's choice of suitable games. It can take longer to choose or build the best games for the lesson language instructors want to teach than it does to prepare a typical vocabulary lesson. Because of this, Bafadal and Humaira [33] had mixed results while using games in language teaching at the university level. The findings revealed that word games were both inspiring and effective; however, some students did not participate enthusiastically in the games because the material being examined did not align with their interests. If games are not related to any teaching function, they will be a waste of time. To summarize, the majority of studies in this field appeared to conclude that games in general, and word games in particular, could be used as a useful strategy at all educational levels to reinforce and improve students' vocabulary skills in a variety of language teaching and learning contexts where English is a second or foreign language. In a more communicative and fun language teaching and learning environment, games have also been shown to be inspiring and efficient in helping learners increase vocabulary exposure and providing practical practice of drilling and repeating both lexical and grammar structures. In this way, it aided learners in quickly acquiring and remembering new information, especially vocabulary retention. These findings apply not only to the English language but to every other foreign language. However, reviews have sometimes recorded mixed findings of the efficacy of games for training, and several studies have been performed in a relatively short period of time. If the experiment is carried out for a longer period of time, the findings could be more accurate. Another impediment to the use of games in language teaching and learning is their examinationbased orientation [8]. These researchers stated that some participants in their study, including both teachers and students, overlooked the advantages of games because they were more concerned with passing exams than with the necessity of language usage that games offered. Stavy et al. [12] added that "crowded classroom setting and heavy load of the curriculum" stopped teachers from incorporating games into language classes in another study conducted in Turkey. Since games are enjoyable and involve a lot of relaxed and casual contact between students and teachers, they can be perceived as unproductive busywork by some teachers and even students [9]. Apart from that, there are some other issues that arise when students are working in pairs or groups, such as students in monolingual groups tending to speak their mother tongue rather than the target language, less involvement from some students due to their limited strategic competence, shyness, or failure to understand the task's intent [14,34,35]. 3. METHODOLOGY The mixed-method quasi-experimental design was used in this research in order to obtain more accurate results and to provide a more thorough and systematic image of what was studied in an educational context. The research was carried out at Cai Be junior high school in the Cai Be district of Vietnam's Tien Giang province. It is one of the largest schools in Cai Be district, with 39 classes, including nine Grade 9 classes, ten Grade 8 classes, ten Grade 7 100

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 classes, and ten Grade 6 classes. Each class has between 35 and 40 students in it. In terms of English, all of the students in this school use the same English textbooks, which were created by the MOET. experimental and control groups scored both of the exams. 3.1 Research site and research sample A Likert scale structured questionnaire was used in conjunction with experimental teaching treatment to explore students' perceptions. There are three parts in the survey. The first segment consists of four questions that concentrate on the personal details of respondents. Its aim is to see if there's a connection between a student's academic performance and their educational background. The aim of the second section was to gather student feedback on the importance of vocabulary and whether or not they want to devote more time to vocabulary learning. The following segment contains six questions aimed at determining what challenges learners face when learning new vocabulary. The final segment, which includes seven questions, seeks to elicit feedback from students about how games have been used to teach vocabulary. Two classes from Cai Be middle school's Grade 7 participated in the research. Students had already completed the first test on measuring learning efficiency when the experiment began in week four of the first semester. Two classes with identical average scores were selected to participate in this experiment based on the results of this English test for all ten classes in Grade 7 at Caibe secondary school. The experiment group was chosen at random, and the control group was chosen at random. After one year of learning English in Grade 6, the seventh graders were selected because they were able to read short dialogues and understand classroom instructions. Furthermore, it was more convenient for the researchers to conduct this study without the possibility of test pressure in the MOET-designed school curriculum. Since they were university classmates, both classes were taught by two different teachers who were expected to be identical in age and English history. The gender and English levels of the two groups are described in detail below, based on the first test results. As illustrated in Table 1, the number of students in both groups is equal to 32 students. However, the proportions of males in the control class slightly dominate the experimental one with 56% and 44%, respectively, while female students in the experimental class surpass that of the other group (56% and 44% in the experimental class and in the control class, respectively). 3.2 Research Instruments 3.2.1 Pre-tests and Post-tests The pre-test consists of 40 test items based on the MOET- designed English 7 from unit 3 to unit 7. Both the control and experimental groups were given 40 minutes to complete the task. The posttest consisted of a study of the words learned during the experimental teaching, allowing the researchers to compare the effectiveness of the two treatments on the two groups' vocabulary learning. The style of the post-test was the same as the pre-test. The teachers who taught both the 3.2.2 Questionnaires Essentially, the overall design of the questionnaire consisted of two types of questions: five Likert scales and alternative-answer questions, which required students to choose from a list of potential responses. Furthermore, the questionnaire was peercorrected and discussed by two English teachers to ensure the accuracy of word selection so that all participants could read and clearly understand all of the objects. The questionnaire was updated twice based on their feedback, then translated into Vietnamese and distributed to all students in the experimental community at the conclusion of the teaching treatment. Many of the questions were answered in class while the class instructor was present. 3.2.3. Interviews A semi-structured interview with eight openended questions was conducted with 12 students from the experimental community. These interviews were audio-taped with the interviewees' consent to ensure a smooth flow of conversation and to avoid missing or forgetting important details. The responses from these will provide us with some insight into students' perceptions of learning vocabulary through word games. Furthermore, these interviews will aid in the triangulation of the data gathered. 4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 4.1 Pre-tests results All seventh graders in the chosen school were required to use the same textbooks, Tieng Anh 7, 101

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 created by the Vietnamese MOET. There were no advanced English classes in this public school. In each class, the number of good and less-than-good students was equal. A comparison of these values using the independent T-test of the two group means helped us figure out whether or not there was any statistically meaningful difference between the two classes based on the first English standard survey test scores at the beginning of the school year, and it was outlined in Table 2 below. Table 2 shows that both the experimental and control groups' pre-test average scores were very modest, at 2.31 and 2.27, respectively. Since the two standard deviations as well as the mean values were approximately identical, the students in these two classes may be at the same level of lexical understanding, according to descriptive figures from Table 2. The difference between the two means of the pre-test score between the two groups: experimental and control, was just 0.04 points. However, an Independent samples T-test was used to see whether this difference could lead to some statistical significance. Clearly, the obtained t value: t(62) .262 and p .795 is greater than the set level of 0.05, implying that the disparity between the two means did not result in a statistically significant difference at the chosen confidence level.05 for a two-tailed test. In terms of vocabulary skills, the two classes may be said to be compatible. 4.2 Post-tests results with 62.5 percent and 6%, respectively. Furthermore, the percentages of treatment-group students who received average and good scores are 72 percent and 22 percent, respectively, while the control group students received 37.5 percent of the average score and no one received a good score. As previously mentioned, the experimental students appeared to do better in lexical achievement following the intervention of games. However, a repeated calculation test was used to determine whether or not this difference was statistically significant. The significance level for this test was set at 0.05. The results of this test are shown in Table 3 below. Table 3 revealed that using games had a significant impact on students' results, with statistical values of F 23.429, P .000. There was an important key contrast for time, indicating that the pre-test and posttest means were statistically different. Furthermore, since P .208 is greater than the set confidence level of .05, there was no substantial difference in time and first-test ranking. Inferentially, the gap between the means of the pre and posttests was unaffected by the first test score. Students in both the control and experimental groups improved their lexical stock. Figure 2 depicts the change in the means of the pretests and post-tests for each group. The posttest was carried out after eight weeks of using word games in English teaching, and the scores of students in two classes were checked and shown in Figure 1 below. Students in the experimental class outperformed their counterparts in the control class in the posttest performance, with a mean score of 6.375 versus 3.875, as shown in Figure 1. The number of students in the control group who received a score of less than 5 was significantly higher than that of the study participants, As shown in Figure 2, the control group's mean increased slightly from 2.27 before the test to 3.88 after the test. Meanwhile, the experimental group's post-test mean increased from a slightly poor value of 2.31 to a rather good value of 6.38. The most interesting finding is that there is a significant association effect between time (pre and post-tests) and group (experimental and control groups) with F 41.227, P .000. In other words, as a result of the 102

Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, volume 621 procedure, there was a statistically important difference in the means of the two classes for pre and post-tests. With the same amount of time spent playing games, the experimental group's lexical stock increased significantly more than the control group's. 4.3 Questionnaire The majority of the students, accounting for 88 percent of the experimental participants, agreed on the value of vocabulary in learning a foreign language. Eighty-four percent of respondents thought their lexical stock was average to poor, and 75 percent wished to devote more time to improving their lexical stock. The graphs below show how the experimental students felt about the importance of vocabulary in foreign language learning. Figure 4 showed that the majority of students, up to 88 percent of the experimental participants, agreed on the role of vocabulary in foreign language learning. Just 6% of students disagree with this assertion, and another 6% are unsure about the value of vocabulary. All of the teachers consulted agreed that vocabulary play

categories, according to McCallum [14]: vocabulary games, spelling games, number games, conversation games, structure games, writing games, role-playing, and drama. As previously stated, the aim of this research is to look at ways to improve lower secondary students' lexical retention abilities, so vocabulary

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